A Language Knot to Mention
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A whimsical dictionary of a not-quite-real language.

Debut author Catchpoole’s slight, playful solo debut purports to be a dictionary of “Hoptanglish,” the language spoken in the “distant, foreign place” of Hoptanglia. There, some basic concepts of English sound, syntax, and meaning have taken on new forms to fit new functions, because, as the author says, “Language…is more than a vocabulary or grammar; it is a consciousness of connection to other speakers.” As Catchpoole takes readers from A to Z, it’s immediately apparent that there’s a loose, slurry logic at work in the sounds of the words and their pithy definitions. “Avocadive,” for example, is an adjective that means “reminiscent of the taste, smell or texture of avocados,” and “Ludicurious” is an adjective meaning “intrigued by comical incongruities.” In all such cases, readers will immediately understand the derivations of these new words and grasp their weird but vaguely on-point tone; at times, fans of the TV show The Simpsons may be reminded of a classic 1996 episode in which characters use the nonwords “embiggen” and “cromulent” to similar effect. However, Catchpoole often balances the simple farce of wordplay with Hoptanglish words designed to provoke deeper thought. “Meandereaning,” for instance, means “meaning without purpose” (derived from “meander” and “meaning”), and “Specifelicity” means “elation from precision.” Not all of the author’s words derive from their English near-cousins (“subvive,”for example, meaning “to die, but only just,” comes from the Latin sub and vivere), but enough of them do to preserve the function of Hoptanglish as a running commentary on the nature of English in an uncertain age (“Swayline,” for example, means “the edge of conviction”). Fans of such venerable works as Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary will recognize this book as a direct, if very lightweight, ideological descendant.

A short introduction to an imaginary language that’s close enough to English to raise some fun questions.

Pub Date: Dec. 14th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-9953943-0-8
Page count: 42pp
Publisher: Zafferona Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2017